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Bin Laden Cell Operating in Israel

The Israel Security Agency uncovered a terrorist cell in the West Bank operated by the extremist Islamic organization headed by Saudi-born terrorist Osama Bin Laden, HA'ARETZ reported. Members of the cell planned to carry out a series of attacks against Israeli targets, including suicide-bomb attacks inside of Israel and the launching of anti-tank missiles at communities in the West bank and Gaza.

A U.S. congressional report published on Monday, "Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2000," warned that Bin Laden supporters may be planning attacks in Israel in an attempt to thwart the Middle East peace process and noted that Hamas activists who previously had little to do with Bin Laden may be gravitating toward him because Hamas leaders appear resigned to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Bin Laden's cell was discovered following the capture of its leader, Nabil Oukal, from the Jebalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Oukal was arrested at the Rafiah terminal on the Israel-Egypt border in June. He had undergone training at camps sponsored by Bin Laden in Pakistan and Afghanistan and was instructed to establish a network to perpetrate attacks against Israel. Oukal recruited dozens of activists and was in contact with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas.

Working together, Israel and the PA arrested 11 members of the cell and are searching for explosives believed to have been in cell members' possession. The ISA is concerned regarding a recent increase in the number of Palestinians traveling to Pakistan. Although the official purpose listed for their trips is "religious studies," the ISA fears that while in Pakistan, many students are recruited by Islamic international terrorist organizations.

Meanwhile, Israel announced on Monday that over the past several weeks 23 suspected terrorists have been arrested. Sources in the defense establishment said that warnings by terrorist groups regarding their intentions to perpetrate large-scale attacks in Israel, and particularly in Jerusalem, remain valid, although there is no concrete information about specific cells poised to actually carry such attacks.

The defense establishment is particularly concerned over the Syrian connection to the terrorist groups. A senior official said that "Syria is still a center of terrorism. Headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are located there, and their personnel continue to initiate terrorist attacks, including very recently. This is not underground activity. It is done openly and Damascus turns a blind eye." The official added that Hamas activists who were recently detained told their interrogators about instructions they had received directly from the organization's headquarters in Damascus.

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